My Body & The Power of Words

September 10, 2013
I spent middle school ashamed of my body. My friends were tiny, slender girls. Their bodies made them seem delicate and almost paper-thin. I longed to be graceful like them. Not only were they skinny,but they never had to worry about food. Their pre-pubescent metabolisms allowed them to stuff their faces with anything. At slumber parties, I watched them devour pizza, soda, ice cream and then more ice cream. Once swallowed, the food seemed to disappear.

My body was very different from theirs. I had the beautiful misfortune of getting my period within the first weeks of 6th grade, years before my closest friends would get theirs. Puberty gave me curves in places I never even knew I had before. They made me uncomfortable and I didn’t know what to do with them, so I hid them. I wore t-shirts, hoodies, sweatpants - anything that could my embarrassing curves. I purposely bought clothes that didn’t fit me to hide what I was so ashamed of.

It took me a long time to gain the courage to wear clothing that flattered me. It opened up a whole new world of opportunity. I wasn’t the odd one out anymore-by that time everyone had caught up to me. I could wear skinny jeans, and show (just a little) cleavage! I felt confident and proud of the woman I had developed into.

The response I got was surprising. It wasn’t my peers who were the problem. In fact, the problem didn’t even stem from people I knew. It was the hobo sitting on sidewalk outside of the grocery store who whistled at me every single time I walked by. It was the man on the bus who stood too close to me and whispered disgusting things in my ear until I felt so violated I would get off at the next stop, regardless of where it was. It was the drunk man in front of a bar in Downtown who got angry and threw beer at me when I ignored him. It never stopped. My body was a moving target, a topic of interest in every conversation. Everyone seemed to have an opinion and seemingly-a right to voice it.

When I asked my friends if they had ever had such experiences, they brushed it off. “Happens to me all the time,” one said nonchalantly. One of my friends even told me to take it as a compliment. “Hey, at least they’re saying something!” I was shocked. How could this be happening to me and the people that I love? It was awful and creepy, and I didn’t understand how someone wasn’t saying anything about it. I refused to be treated like an animal.

So, when they talk to me, I talk right back. “Hola, mamacita,” is returned with “You’re disgusting.” A not-so accidental tap on my butt will receive a shove and “Don’t touch me.” I hope that it will not always be this way. I hope that one day, I will be able to walk down a street confidently and silently. I hope to be treated with respect. I pray for the day that men will learn boundaries and the decency to keep their inappropriate comments to themselves.

Until that day, I am proud of my body. I am proud of every curve, bundle of fat and freckle that lies upon it. My body is not an object. I am not to be touched without my permission. My body is not an animal. I am not something to be whistled or cat-called at. My body is not a conversation topic. Disgusting “compliments” are not appreciated. Do not comment on it, unless I ask of your opinion.

My body is just that, mine.

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